21 UK undergraduates set to be 2019’s CEO for a day

A star line-up of top bosses will share their working day to give UK students a first taste of leadership.

Twenty-one UK undergraduate students have won a day as the real-life apprentice to the CEO of leading businesses, not-for-profit or public sector organisation.

Chief executives from leading organisations including Sainsbury’s, Domino’s Pizza Group, Visa, ITV, Admiral Group, Welsh Rugby Union, Hargreaves Lansdown, Barnardo’s, The Department of Transport, Avanade and Royal Mint are taking part.

Each CEO will each spend a day with an individual student winner of CEOx1Day, run by global executive search firm Odgers Berndtson.

“The need to innovate and manage generational changes in the workforce are big issues for all senior leaders,” said Kester Scrope, Chief Executive of Odgers Berndtson.

”This gives CEOs a chance to engage in a very personal way, which is also of immense value to a young person starting out.”

Many of the winning students have very modern expectations of senior leaders. “The way businesses are led is changing,” said one. “Instead of a huge gap between the people at the top and the average worker, my ambition would be to utilise everyone’s strengths and weaken that gap.”

Another said: “Too often in modern culture leadership is about power, specifically over others. In my view, this is detrimental to progress.”

Open to all

Individual students will schedule days with particular CEOs at the participating companies over the coming weeks and months. Students come from a wide range of backgrounds and universities, reflecting the ethos of the scheme. They won their places following a rigorous six-month application and selection process. Undergraduates from all UK universities were invited to apply. 

“This is about opening doors at a very high level to talented young people from a mix of backgrounds who might otherwise lack such opportunities,” said Mark Freebairn, who runs CEOx1Day for Odgers Berndtson in the UK.

“The idea is to inspire a new generation and show them how exciting leadership can be.”

Almost 1,000 CEOs and students across 13 countries have so far taken part in Odgers Berndtson’s CEOx1Day, attracting almost 20,000 student applications. For winners, the experience can be transformational. In the UK for instance, science students have said it helped them identify non-technical career opportunities, and some winners have since joined the companies of their CEOs.

The expansion of CEO for a Day across Odgers Berndtson’s global network comes as business leaders increasingly focus on the impacts of disruption and change. In a recently-published book, “Leadership Disrupted”, Odgers Berndtson found that many CEOs fear that senior executives lack what’s needed to address the new challenges facing their companies, including how to engage and motivate Millennials.

Find out more about CEOx1Day